No company can afford to ignore the customer experience (CX) it provides. In fact, any business that fails to provide a great CX runs a real risk of failure. But, in an age of ever-increasing choice for consumers, how can a firm offer outstanding performance in this respect?
“When they first encounter your brand, consumers typically want to be pleasantly surprised,” according to Amale Ghalbouni, experience director at Siegel & Gale, who has advised Levi Strauss, UBS and Unilever, among others, on CX.
“Your brand is competing for a share of their time, wallet, heart and mind,” she says. “Any technology you choose when building awareness should help to strengthen the emotional connection and get them excited about future interactions with your brand.”
This technology could include AI-based chatbots, which can provide information to online customers. Although they need to be used judiciously and trained to avoid annoying people with substandard responses, chatbots can quickly answer common queries or redirect users to the right human representative.
Communications agency Soar Digital has installed the Frase Answers chatbot on its website. This analyses the whole site to learn about the services the company offers, FAQs, blog posts, contact details and more. The company has been able to refine the quality of bot’s responses over time.
“Each answer can be upvoted or downvoted by visitors based on its relevance, so the whole process is improved with their feedback,” says Soar Digital’s owner, James Johnson. “If the answer can’t be found through AI, the customer can talk to a member of our team via the same chat screen.”
Visitors are benefiting from reduced waiting times, more relevant answers and faster access to resources, says Johnson, who adds: “This additional support enables our team members to allocate more time to delivering the best customer care we can offer.”
ResponseTap’s call personalisation tech provided the solution to this problem. By analysing thousands of data points from a caller’s website visit, it can predict the destination they are enquiring about to a reasonable degree of accuracy. Using these insights, it routes callers directly to the specialists best suited to help them, bypassing the IVR altogether.
When it comes to securing a sale, tech that enables a seamless CX across different channels can make all the difference. That’s something Virgin Holidays understands better than most. Its call-handlers undergo extensive training to become experts about the holidays on offer. But the process of routing a call to the right expert used to oblige customers to navigate an interactive voice response (IVR) system, which resulted in high drop-off rates.
ResponseTap’s vice-president of customer success and operations, Barry Cochrane, recalls that its system was able to connect “more calls to agents – and those calls that were connected were more likely to convert into sales”. Indeed, the number of daily phone bookings at Virgin Holidays increased by 48% after the system was installed.
Converting customer interest into sales revenue has always been tricky in ecommerce, where shopping-cart abandonment rates remain stubbornly high. As the pandemic has highlighted, the personalised experience that in-store customer-service specialists can offer is hard to replicate online. But software company Go Instore believes that its live video technology, which connects online customers to these in-store experts, could help to close the gap.
Clive Hudson, senior programme manager at Marks and Spencer, says: “Video-powered retail, in partnership with Go Instore, allows us to bring the expertise of our colleagues in stores straight to customers at home, offering convenience and flexibility alongside the service they expect from M&S.”
Customers browsing the company’s website can also watch live broadcasts of experts demonstrating new products. But, once customers have made a purchase, how can companies ensure that they continue to have a great experience?
Identity verification is a big part of online CX. Research in March by YouGov and Auth0, an ID management platform for app developers, found that 48% of UK consumers are more willing to sign up for an app if it offers a biometric log-in system. Yet only 14% of British firms have apps that provide this facility.
“Businesses tend to consider identity as a log-in box,” says Steven Rees-Pullman, senior vice-president, international, at Auth0. “In reality, it’s about providing an easy, secure way for users to come on board and log in, which is crucial for encouraging conversions and building loyalty.”
Data analytics tech can also improve the latter stages of a customer’s online journey by uncovering insights that can be used to personalise future interactions. But the effectiveness of these tools relies on the company’s ability to break down functional silos so that the information can flow easily between various parts of the organisation.
TSB uses analytics not only to better understand the customer journey, but also to ensure that it meets its own high standards. Its director of design and delivery, Mike Gamble, explains: “We constantly monitor and analyse customers’ non-digital activities too. This helps to ensure that our constantly evolving digital roadmap matches their changing behaviour. We are then better able to react and build the necessary services and capability for our customers’ benefit.”
While customers’ behaviour might change over time, one thing will never change: their desire for high-quality, personalised experiences.